Under a tungsten sky, in a court of concrete, a circle of men was holding ground against the cold assault of the wind.
“Here, take this guys.” Mark was handing out to the rest of the men little squares of chocolate, taken from a crumpled piece of foil.
The group of scrawny men leaned closer looking at the treat with eyes wide open, “is that what I think it is?” asked the tallest one, reaching for it with trembling hands.
“Yeah, today is gonna be our biggest hit ever, and we are not going to get a second chance… no need to die with leftovers in our pockets.”
When everyone got their share, Erik, a brawny man with thick brows, always frowning, lifted his square like a cup of wine for a cheer “To Mark, for this precious gift! Let’s do this, and come back all in one piece”.
With a wolfish grin Mark took word “We all know the plan guys. Security is tight as can be, and I won’t promise we will get back in one piece,” a glance through the circle was enough to accentuate old scars scattered on all the men “I can’t promise that we will all come back alive this time.” His voice was rough as a volcanic rock “Today the mission is more important than any one of us.” The ice in his eyes pierced his companions.
Then his hand moved forward, closed fist towards the center of the circle, soon met by the other four “To our Death, for the People!” Mark roared
“For our Work!”
“For our Future!”
The supermarket was a the end of the road, a colossal monument to abundance and crass opulence. The parking lot was deserted, target practice for the raindrops barraging the asphalt, where, alone, Mark was advancing, his head tucked in the worn out jacket.
The automatic doors opened swift and silent like a katana cutting through flesh and bones. There the Robo-Host was waiting patiently, staring, eerily still in the vacuum. The entrance of Mark was enough to awaken the dead machine, that with rigid movements rotated towards the newcomer “Welcome to SuperBuy, do you need my support?” the voice came in short sprints with long pauses between, with an asexual texture that made it pass through Mark’s ear like a sheet of sandpaper.
“Yes, a shopping cart” he snapped, hands tight in his pockets.
“For that I would need a coin, that will be returned at the end of your shopping” replied the robot, with its breathless voice.
“For THAT, I would need a job, but that I don’t have” the reply came when the last vestiges of the g from the mechanical voice were still lingering in the air.
“If you can’t provide a coin, I must sadly inform you that I cannot give you a shopping cart, as per the regulation of Sup-”
“I very well know the regulations, tin can. But tell me this. How do you expect me to HAVE money, if there are no jobs?” Just a breath “Tell me, when was the last time this market sold anything?”
The absent look on the robot did not change while its circuits elaborated the questions, the silence extended for seconds where only the whirring of the machine’s CPU filled the void “I do not have expectations about your finances dear customer. As for your second question, our last receipt was printed 1.041 e+11 milliseconds ago, that for your understanding is one hundred and four million one hundred thousand seconds, that approximates to three years three months eighteen days and six hours.”
“God you are a useless machine! And if no one has been buying groceries for the last three goddamn years, why does your stupid robot army of workers keep producing it?”
Once again the Robo-Host maintained its unchangeable expression of binary coded nothingness, with the hidden cooling fan rotating quietly on its back “We have been built to lift humanity from the burden of labor. All jobs have been automated, and now humanity is free to spend a life of leisure-”
“Who is the genius that built this stupid system? Why if there is no demand you keep producing? Why you keep filling this tomb of food, that you then throw away? Why you protect even the waste with guns and tasers as if it was the bloody queen of England? Why do we have to starve and die, with richness just inches away?”
The algorithms of speech simulation looped in the circuits of the robot, spinning erratically under the barrage of questions from the customer.
In the prolonged silence from the machine Mark pulled a walkies-talkie out of his pocket. “It’s Mark, the first try fai-” the robotic hand grabbed the man’s forearm with it’s hydraulic power, pressing almost to a crunch “your behavior does not conform with SuperBuy standards, you are now invited to leave the premise, lest the security be informed. Any attempt of vandalism or theft will be responded in accordance to local private property defense regulations, that may or may not result in the use of firearms with intent to kill” with it’s massive motors the robot started dragging the undesired customer away, like a parent with a kid throwing a tantrum. Pulled by such a force Mark found himself dropping his radio, and watched it drift away when a robo-janitor crawled in and took it away.
“You are stomping on my basic human rights! Release me!” He growled, trying to escape the mechanical grasp, while the other hand rummaged in the pockets. The asynchronous voice of the metal assistant replied “Title 15 Chapter 183 of USC states: ‘any person deemed dangerous for the security of the customers, workers of goods of a work activity may be removed from the said activity by any mean necessary to preserve such security’ your human rights are correctly enforced as per the laws you abide to”.
The trip to the edge of the parking lot was a long, wet, struggle between human and machine, trying to free the wrist form the geared fingers of the robot.
It was at about three quarters of the length of the path when Mark’s left hand got hold of what he was looking for. The handle of the pistol had a sort of comforting touch, with its cold metallic grip, having a firm grasp on it made the pressure of the robotic hand appear like a light touch.
The explosion of the gunshot expanded across the empty area of the parking. A puff of smoke rose from the tip of the gun, against the rain streaming down.
A spurt of oil and lubricants splattered on Mark’s arm, drenching it in synthetic odors.
Finally the powerful grip of the Robot loosened, its hydraulic components loosing pressure.
The robot’s lighting system switched completely to red, LEDs blinking aggressively “Offender assaulted asset #K3C567, activate security measures to protect Customers, Workers and Goods. Your unruly behavior will be met with any means deemed necessary, including, but not limited to, the use of firearms with the intent to kill.”
A battalion of robotic assistants swarmed out of the super store, all blinking red, scanning the parking lot with pointing lasers, closing in on Mark.
One semi-automatic pistol on his left hand, the right arm flapping motionless, and probably broken, and a forest of laser beams converging on his chest.
Out on the far left, behind the wall of robots, he took a glimpse of four human figures sprinting for the warehouse.
With an immense struggle, Mark used his right arm, reaching for his pocket and producing one grungy hand made cigarette “no need to die with leftovers in our pockets.”
A wolfish grin forever etched on his lips.